More than 170 people gathered on Georgia's coast recently for the 13th annual Stewardship Partners Meeting to share new conservation ideas and best practices and tour a longleaf pine restoration project. The meeting was co-hosted by Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
A diverse group of attendees within natural resource management across the country - including state and federal agencies, educational institutions, private industry and nonprofit groups - met with employees from Southern Company and each of its subsidiaries. Highlights included updates on two Southern Company/NFWF partnership programs - Longleaf Stewardship Fund and Power of Flight.
"These events and the number of people who are coming here are a testament to the fact that networking and conversation in the conservation community are key," said Holly Bamford, NFWF's chief conservation officer. "The commitment of Southern Company is exemplary. (The company and its subsidiaries) are truly visionaries and leaders in conservation."
Southern Company is the foundation's second longest-serving corporate partner, going back to 2003.
"This gathering is one of the most important things we do every year," said Chief Environmental Officer Larry Monroe. "It's just so beneficial, and we love doing it."
On the meeting's last day, attendees visited Altama Plantation, a state wildlife management area within the Lower Altamaha River watershed that supports a wide array of biologically diverse ecosystems. Designated as one of the "Last Great Places" by The Nature Conservancy, the Lower Altamaha is undammed for its entirety and boasts the highest-documented number of rare plants, animals and natural community occurrences in Georgia.
The area speaks to collaborative efforts to protect existing longleaf pine forests and convert traditional pine plantations to longleaf pine, tidal wetlands and inland maritime forests.
"Environmental stewardship and collaborative conservation are vital ways to fulfill our core values," said Jim Kerr, general counsel and chief compliance officer. "These concepts are programmed into our DNA as an organization. Our business is to make the Southeast a better place to live, period. And it's not just for our customers - it's where we live, too."